When we experience pleasure, our brains release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Our brains are dopamine junkies. When kids do yoga, the body sends a positive message to the brain and viola, kids are doing something that is fun and healthy....yoga.
If I knew then, what I know now.....I would have started yoga as a child. Sure, I did "Happy Baby" pose as a baby, and "Downward Dog" felt right when I was learning to crawl, but after that, yoga disappeared in my life and didn't resurface until I was an adult. Thank goodness it did, and can you imagine if yoga had been in our life as a child? If you don't know already, let me just remind you of the amazing benefits of yoga for kids of all ages.
Physical Benefits: Yoga stretches and strengthens your muscles. It makes your spine and heart stronger, gives you more energy, and helps you breathe deeply. For example, while doing snake pose, cat pose, and cow pose, children massage their bellies and strengthen their spines. Yoga improves balance and concentration, keeps your body flexible, and can even help with headaches, belly aches, indigestion, and gas. Yoga will enhance any other sport or activity, or it can be done by itself. Through the yoga moves, children learn about their bodies-what works, what feels funny, strengths and weaknesses. This body awareness will help them in all stages and ages of their lives. Children’s bodies are growing, and it’s important to understand why things work or don’t work. For example, when a child’s legs are growing faster than the rest of their body, they may not be as flexible. This is o.k. and yoga is great place to recognize it and then talk about it with the instructor and their peers.
Social-Emotional Growth: Yoga builds confidence through rewarding, immediate and long term challenges in a non-competitive environment. Poses such as warrior I, II, and III challenge the children to maintain balance in a sequence. These poses improve posture, which improves self-esteem. Partner yoga allows children to interact with each other in a positive, fun way. When yoga games are played, children learn to be honest with themselves and others. Teamwork and cooperation are woven into yoga in a positive setting. Children learn to understand the importance of unity and connection, as well as appreciate the differences amongst each other. Yoga inspires children to be kind, compassionate, empathetic, loving, and understanding of themselves and others.
Spiritual Growth: Yoga is a way of life. It cultivates a peaceful, relaxed state of body and mind and encourages children to be aware of the natural world and the important role that they play in today's society. Many of the moves can be related to animals or objects found on earth. During these moments, children connect with these animals and put themselves in the shoes of the animal (have you ever seen animals wearing shoes?) Yoga teaches us to be aware of the present moment, be engaged, focused, and enjoy what life has to offer. As the saying goes: "Yesterday was history, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift, and that's why we call it the present."
Cognitive Growth: To be successful, it is essential to have good executive function. Executive function helps us connect experiences with actions. We need these mental processes to help us perform activities, plan, organize, pay attention, self-monitor, set goals, manage time and space, and remember details. Yoga requires a lot of focus, especially when a child listens to others or tells a story, while demonstrating a pose. Poses such as eagle pose or tree pose also require great focus and determination. All of these are tools for stress-management.
Intellectual Growth: Yoga teaches discipline and responsibility. Children learn and discuss healthy life-styles and habits. In the beginning of a yoga class, children are encouraged to share their lives and passions with each other. Each child learns to have realistic views on his or her abilities and learns how to control certain aspects of his or her environment.
Creative Growth: During yoga, children inspire each other with their imagination. Yoga poses can be given different names and stories and can be told in different sequences, using a variety of animals, objects, or other characters. There are opportunities to express creativity through storytelling, body movements, and art.